With Reliance Jio bringing down the internet data rates and the growth of India’s smartphone users — the online services have seen a significant rise in their user base. Especially, OTT (over the top) platforms have been able to garner huge traction out of these trends.
With about 100 Mn monthly active users (as of March 2019), launched in 2011, Gaana has been leading the online music streaming charts in India. In a bid to maintain its edge in the increasing competition the company has now introduced Gaana Videos and Artist Dashboard.
Speaking to Inc42 about India growth numbers, Gaana CEO Prashan Agarwal informed that in India, the number of music streaming users has grown from 30 Mn in 2016 to 150 Mn in 2018. Gaana has been able to capture about 66% of the 150 Mn total music users in India.
Agarwal said there are two main factors, “One is our brand salience with more than 90% brand recall. Second is the product innovation that we have done for the market. We understand the Indian user in terms of her consumption and product behaviour, have simplified our user interface to complement it.”
Promoting Indie Artists With Exclusive Content
Understanding the needs of the Indian users could be key for Gaana in the fight against international players Spotify and YouTube Music. With the growing competition in the music streaming space, many OTT platforms have launched original and exclusive content such as podcasts, exclusive songs and more, keeping in mind the Indian audience.
Pop songs such as ‘Tera Ghata’ were introduced under the Gaana exclusive tag and have since then gained over 200 Mn playouts. Gaana also have originals tag under which independent artists’ music has been launched in the past. The company is looking to innovate more in this space with its two newly launched features Gaana Video and Artist Dashboard.
Photo Description: Screenshots of Gaana Videos
Gaana Videos are essentially vertical videos which are specific to each song or artist. These could range from anecdotes to factoids to a short dance piece which accompanies the song. Gaana Video is envisioned as an exclusive feature with only 5-7% of the platform’s songs featuring these videos.
As for the Artist Dashboard, it is a self-service dashboard for artists to access insights and analytics around how their fans are consuming their music on Gaana. This should make it easier for independent artists to track user habits, and guide them in their future musical creations.
Photo Description: Screenshots of Gaana Artists Dashboard
Gaana says it has a team that vets independent artists and connects them with record labels for the album or song launches. Gaana leverages its distribution and marketing to make sure the song reaches its users through app notifications, showcase and other in-app promotions.
“Through our app, artists get access to 10 Mn daily users. While if the song was launched through alternative channels, artists could have access to only 1% of this number. The major earning points for singers are concerts and that is largely based on their popularity. Gaana helps the artists to get that user base.” Agarwal added.
Interestingly, Spotify also has a similar ‘Spotify For Artists’ app which allows independent artists and music labels to upload their original music on Spotify. This app also has a similar analytics dashboard just like the one introduced Gaana to help artists track their fan trends and also connect with their fans. Spotify also launched a video channel with content from ESPN, Comedy Central, MTV, BBC in 2016, and has also been beta testing exclusive vertical videos (also called Canvas) like the one Gaana is planning to build.
Battling The Growing Competition
In the past two months, international players such as YouTube Music and Spotify have entered the Indian market, and have had varying degrees of success. While they may not have the massive user reach like Gaana, it does make the music streaming market a lot more competitive. Thus, all market players are expected to huddle up more innovative features in order to establish their dominance in India’s online music streaming industry.
Agarwal predicted that the competition will increase with more investment in the market. So in the next two years, these 150 Mn Indian users will grow very fast to 400 Mn users on the back of investment that music streaming companies will make, he added. Other currently active music streaming players in India include Google Play Music, Reliance Jio backed Saavn, Hungama, Airtel Wynk, Apple Music, SoundCloud and Amazon Prime Music.
Further, talking about Gaana’s advantage in the Indian market, he said, “The product and brand value that we have built, along with our India user focussed recommendation engine are the prime differentiators for us in the crowded music streaming space. International players will take around 18-24 months to garner similar data on the Indian user and thus we will continue to lead the market with a significant market share.”
One area where Gaana claims to have an advantage over new rivals is data. “Essentially if you look at data, we have 6-7 years of data where we have got significant data on user behaviour. I will credit the competitor with the same. But, if you look at the music streaming space altogether, YouTube is focused today on paid subscription, we are focused on growing the market. We will continue to lead because of our focus on free users as well as paid users,” he added.
In February 2018, Gaana has raised $115 Mn from Tencent and Times Internet. Tencent is the majority shareholder of Tencent Music Entertainment and also operates South East Asian music streaming platform, Joox. The Times Internet company had also raised an undisclosed amount from Micromax Informatics in 2015.
Spotify had started the beta testing of its vertical looping videos – Canvas in 2018. Though the artists showed enthusiasm towards experimenting with Canvas, app users have criticised the videos. Some international bloggers said that Canvas takes up a significant amount of data and is not very useful because most users use the app for listening to music, rather than watching it. Interestingly, the Swedish company had preempted the users’ dissatisfaction by offering a button to disable this feature. With India yet to adopt 5G connectivity and Gaana’s lack of disability feature on the video loops, the success of Gaana Videos is yet to be ascertained.